Reviewed for THC Reviews The Adventures of Spunky and Dunky and Buddy Bear: Rescued at Last is a cute story about two little monkeys who are left orphaReviewed for THC Reviews The Adventures of Spunky and Dunky and Buddy Bear: Rescued at Last is a cute story about two little monkeys who are left orphaned in Africa when poachers steal their parents and take them away, but a kind bear essentially adopts the brothers. Spunky and Dunky tend to be rather mischievous, but with the right incentive, they learn to reign in their curiosity. Buddy Bear is a big-hearted, father-figure to them as they embark on an adventurous trip to Canada to live with him.
Rescued at Last is part picture book, part early chapter book. The story itself will probably appeal more to younger children who will be able to relate to the rambunctious monkeys. There are plenty of cute, colorful illustrations, which effectively convey the little monkeys emotions and that I imagine will hold young readers' interest. However, the presence of some slightly more advanced vocabulary might make it difficult for independent reading. It is also broken up into short chapters of about 2-3 text pages each. In a few instances, the author takes the time to explain bigger words and place names that might be unfamiliar to kids by including a parenthetical sentence after the word. While I can't necessarily fault the author for giving the explanation, the way they were incorporated felt a bit awkward. The other thing that was a little odd for me was the author's choice to anthropomorphize a bear to act at the parental character rather than simply using a human character to look out for the monkeys (ala the man in the yellow hat from Curious George). I think if the story had been written this way, it would have been great, or if it had been just the animal characters with no humans involved, it would have been great. However, mixing the two together (humans act as background characters and the animals travel using human transportation) also felt a little awkward to me.
Despite my small issues with the execution of the story, I still enjoyed Rescued at Last, because it imparts several good messages for children. First, although it doesn't go into great detail about the poacher, I think there's just enough about this to possibly spark a child's interest in understanding and learning more about the problem of wild animals being poached. Next, it teaches kids to be kind and caring toward others. Buddy Bear is said to be a philanthropist who is always looking for someone to help, and he selflessly goes to Africa to find the orphaned Spunky and Dunky and bring them back to Canada to live with him. Although the word adopt isn't used to describe his act, that's essentially what he does, so this could be a great discussion starter about the topic of adoption. Lastly, the book teaches kids to think before they act. The two little monkeys are naturally curious and tend to get into trouble, but as the story progresses they eventually learn to think before doing something naughty. For these reason, I would definitely recommend, The Adventures of Spunky and Dunky and Buddy Bear: Rescued at Last. I'm not sure if the author has any plans to write more stories for this trio, but the title (even though it's a mouthful) seems to indicate that might be the case. If so, I'd be interested in seeing what other adventures are in store for Spunky, Dunky, and Buddy Bear.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author via the publicist Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" My Life with Snoopy is the love story of one man and his faithful dog. It is a compilation of vignettes about theReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" My Life with Snoopy is the love story of one man and his faithful dog. It is a compilation of vignettes about the 13+ years they spent together as best friends, along with some background information on the author, events in his life that affected his decisions to, at first, not want a dog, and later to finally adopt Snoopy. I've always believed that our animal friends can teach us many things. This is a phenomena I've experienced firsthand, so when the author talked about how Snoopy was such a major influence on his life, I could relate. I also fully understood the serendipity of walking into an animal shelter and simply knowing that a certain animal is meant for you. When we let them, pets have a way of grabbing onto our hearts and never letting go, even in death. This seems to be exactly what happened with Joey and Snoopy.
After a serious childhood trauma in which a puppy he had come to love was abruptly ripped away from him, Joey didn't really want to have another dog. Much later in life when he was forty and had spent time around friends' dogs, seeing how the animals enriched their lives, he decided to take another chance and went to the animal shelter. There he found Snoopy, the dog who would become his best friend for the next thirteen years. I loved reading about all the adventures these two had together. Snoopy's sweet, lively, intelligent personality shone through in all the little stories about their friends, neighbors and other animals they met along the way. The other obvious thing was just how much Joey adored Snoopy. These two were virtually inseparable until Snoopy's life on this mortal plane came to an end.
Of course, the end of life stories of pets are always heartbreaking, and this one was no different. I've personally been in the author's shoes multiple times, and it's never easy to say goodbye. I have to commend Joey though for making Snoopy's passing as peaceful and comfortable as possible. After dealing with this myself, I was shocked to learn of people who simply abandon their sick, elderly pets, unable to cope with letting them go in a healthy way, so whenever I read about someone who cares enough to “do it the right way,” I have to give them a pat on the back for their compassion and bravery. Snoopy was obviously a very special dog who deserved the best in both life and death. As difficult as the ending was to read, I rejoice in the fact that one less dog was left on the streets neglected or worse yet, euthanized way too early. Joey and Snoopy were, without a doubt, made for each other. I'm so glad they found one another and had those thirteen years of fun, adventure, laughter and tears together.
My Life with Snoopy is written in a breezy, conversational way that made me feel like I was sitting down with a friend, listening to him recount stories from his and his dog's lives. Mr. Camen is a good storyteller who kept me engaged throughout the book with his fun and occasionally heartbreaking tales. The only reason I knocked off a half star is because I found a number of mistakes that a good editor/proofreader should have caught and which could be a tad distracting. Overall though, I very much enjoyed reading My Life with Snoopy. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good animal story. It would also make a great gift for the animal lover in your life.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I originally picked up No Buddy Left Behind as research material for the book I'm currently writing. Not only did it provide vReviewed for THC Reviews I originally picked up No Buddy Left Behind as research material for the book I'm currently writing. Not only did it provide valuable insights into rescuing animals from Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also turned out to be a darn good read. Some non-fiction books can be rather dry, even if only in places, but there was nary a dull moment in this one. I was thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end and was wishing there was more when I finished it, but I suppose there's only so much one can write about this topic and that after a while the rescues probably bear enough similarity that they start blurring into one another. There are many smaller individual stories contained within the framework of the author's adventures of rescuing these animals, because each dog or cat captured the heart of a different American service member. However, they all flow together into the greater story that follows Ms. Crisp on her mission of bringing service members' beloved pets home beginning with one special dog and ending with a massive rescue of nearly thirty animals all at once. Like I said before, it's an amazing story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
After reading No Buddy Left Behind, I have the utmost admiration for the work Terri Crisp and all her friends who helped with her endeavors have done. Ms. Crisp is a woman who truly cares, not only about the animals themselves, but also about the people who love them. She undertook these rescue missions at significant personal risk, flying in and out of Baghdad at the height of the war. During that mass exodus I mentioned, she even stayed in the Red Zone for several days, all because she strongly believed that these dogs and cats were every bit a member of their masters' military units as their human counterparts and deserved to go home where they would be loved and cared for rather than left behind to die. Considering the Iraqis deplorable attitudes towards animals, particularly dogs, that's exactly what would have happened too. Sadly, as is often the case in a war zone, not every story had a happy ending, but the important thing is that extraordinary efforts were made to give the animals a happy, secure life. As a result, many service members were helped as well. Their stories were emotional and often heart-wrenching tales of how these animals' friendship helped them stay sane during their deployment and beyond. For that reason alone, I think the military should consider loosening their restrictions on the befriending of animals in a war zone. Also for that reason, I commend SPCA International, Ms. Crisp, and all the friends who assisted her, because those pets who gave so much to the troops definitely didn't deserve to be left behind. Thanks to their efforts more than 280 dogs and cats had been rescued by the time this book was published.
No Buddy Left Behind is an extraordinary tale of love, compassion, courage, and friendship of both the human and animal varieties. It shows just how much one person can accomplish when they put their mind to it, even when the task seems impossible. Oftentimes the odds appeared to be stacked against her, but Ms. Crisp persevered and was willing to do whatever it took to bring these animals home safely. I don't know if I could have done half of what she did, but I admired her for it nonetheless. This story is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. I laughed at some of the animals antics, and I cried many times too, out of both happiness and sadness. The kindness and generosity of certain people, as well as the joyous reunions between human and animal, were moving beyond words, while the stories that didn't end happily nearly broke my heart in two. I highly recommend No Buddy Left Behind to animal lovers everywhere, and to anyone who has an interest in furthering the cause of the members of our military being able to bring their four-legged friends home with them when their tours of duty are up....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" A Christmas Home is another heartwarming holiday read from Greg Kincaid in his untitled series about the McCray faReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" A Christmas Home is another heartwarming holiday read from Greg Kincaid in his untitled series about the McCray family. This one takes place several years after the end of A Dog Named Christmas. Todd McCray is now a young man in his early twenties. He lives on his own in a cabin on his parent's property, far enough away to be mostly independent, but still close enough for his parents to keep watch on their developmentally disabled son. Todd loves his job as Assistant Manager at the local animal shelter, but reduced revenues and governmental budgetary cutbacks have led to the shelter being shut down by the end of the year. Todd finds himself in the precarious position of not only dealing with the loss of his job, but also once again, needing to help find homes for all the dogs and cats in the shelter before the holidays.
Todd is a wonderful young man who is kind and caring toward everyone, both humans and animals alike. He may be a little mentally slow in some ways, but he has an amazing natural talent for working with the animals at the shelter, especially the dogs. He's incredibly patient with training the dogs and positively loves his work. Todd also has an idealistic streak, so when the news comes down that the shelter is closing, he's determined to find homes for all the animals and does a pretty impressive job of it. At the same time, he grows beyond his position as Assistant Shelter Manager and proves himself in other ways by taking control of his life and moving forward, showing he has the ability for independent decision-making when life hands him a lemon.
Todd also gets a light romance with Laura, a young woman with rheumatoid arthritis with whom he has been friends for quite a while. He was at the shelter when she brought in a stray dog she had accidentally hit with her car. Todd cared for the dog until she recovered from her injuries and then trained her to be a service dog to help Laura both at home and in her job as a nurse. These two share a sweet, slowly blossoming love that I enjoyed reading. Laura is very gentle and kindhearted to see past Todd's disability to the wonderful man he is. She appreciates his talents not just because he helped her and her dog, Gracie, but because she truly believes in him and his abilities.
Todd's parents, George and Mary Ann, are still a strong influence in his life, but they must come to terms with their “baby,” whom they've always given special attention to, finally becoming a man with a mind and a life of his own. Of course, their faithful and now aged dog, Christmas, is still a part of the story too. Both George and Todd have come to rely on Christmas for comfort and solace. They share “custody,” with Christmas going back and forth between their houses at will.
I love both holiday stories and animal stories, so having the two combined into one, made A Christmas Home a very enjoyable read for me. The only reason I knocked off a half star was because it was a tad slow paced early on, but it definitely picked up as the story progressed. Otherwise, A Christmas Home was a sweet, holiday story that warmed me through and through, like curling up with a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter's day. Since it has no objectionable content, it is a book that could even be enjoyed by the whole family as a Christmas tradition. It will definitely be going on my keeper shelf to be read again and again during holiday seasons to come. I have no idea if Greg Kincaid has any more stories planned for the McCray family. It certainly seemed like there could be more to tell, and if he does, I'll be eagerly picking up any future books he writes....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Tears for Nanertak is a wonderful picture book that teaches kids about the effects of global warming on the polar ice caps. ThReviewed for THC Reviews Tears for Nanertak is a wonderful picture book that teaches kids about the effects of global warming on the polar ice caps. The main character, Nanertak, is a polar bear cub. She and her mother Nanuck are loosing their home due to the melting ice. I really liked the author's repetition of the words, “drip..., drip..., drip...” throughout the story. They are always used in reference to the tears of the animals, land and people, but they also created a word picture which ingeniously invoked the feeling of melting ice. The author also empowers children with the knowledge that they are our future, and they too can do things to help slow the effects of global warming.
The illustrations are lovely. The author is also a professional water color artist who painted each of the pictures. Some of them can be purchased as art prints from his global warming series. Mr. Hofstrand adds an extra dimension to his work known as “numenistic integration” in which the water used in the paintings is collected from the area that is being painted. In this case, the water was collected from the runoff of the melting Greenland Ice Cap. Perhaps it was this method, or this combined with the author's style and color choices, but I felt the illustrations perfectly evoked the chilly landscape of the Arctic.
Overall, Tears for Nanertak was a beautiful book that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to teach younger children about global warming and inspire them to get involved in conservation efforts. Part of the proceeds from the sale of each book are being donated to an educational organization which does just that, so to my way of thinking it's a win-win for everyone.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author via the publicist, Bostick Communications, in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Oogy is the inspirational, heartwarming story of a dog with an unbreakable spirit and will to live who never lost his loving,Reviewed for THC Reviews Oogy is the inspirational, heartwarming story of a dog with an unbreakable spirit and will to live who never lost his loving, gentle demeanor in spite of unconscionable abuse. Before beginning the book, I had no idea why Oogy was disfigured, only that he was adorable anyway. Although the author, Oogy's master, Larry Levin, doesn't know all the details on how Oogy was rescued and brought to the animal hospital where they met, nor exactly what happened to him before that, I think he's done a pretty good job of piecing together the information he did have to speculate, and the picture he has painted is positively horrifying. This poor puppy was used as bait for fighting dogs and left to die in a cage, but he was fortunately found by police who brought him to the only emergency animal hospital in the area. To think that anyone could do that to a poor, helpless animal is appalling. No one really thought Oogy would survive, much less go on to lead a happy, productive life, but he defied the odds time and time again. If not for the kindhearted manager of the animal hospital, Oogy probably would have been put down, but she refused to give up on him and convinced the vet who was her business partner to try to save him. They and other kind, loving people became instrumental in giving Oogy the life he deserved.
I think it's a real testament to Oogy's personality and determination that he lived at all, much less was so sweet and docile throughout his surgeries and recovery. He obviously had an extraordinary tolerance for pain. During his early years with the Levins, Oogy had a penchant for mischief and destruction, but his family exhibited the patience of Job with him, understandably not wanting to cause him any more fear after everything he'd been through already. If Mr. Levin's words are any indication, I'd say that Oogy has brought the author and his family far more joy than heartache or frustration. Unforunately, poor Oogy had to go through several more surgeries. Some were for the purpose of reconstructing his damaged face, and all I can say is God bless Dr. Bianco, the veterinarian who performed these surgeries and all other routine medical care for Oogy free of charge for his lifetime. There were other surgeries for torn ACLs that Dr. Bianco couldn't perform and for which the Levins had to pay large fees. They also had to patiently go through the rehabilitative process with him, and again, all I can say is God bless the Levins for their dedication and willingness to invest all their time and money to give this poor misfortunate dog a good life.
I think our pets often choose us, and that appears to be exactly what Oogy did. After reading the chapter 'Signs', it became even more apparent that Oogy was simply meant for the Levins. There is a chapter in the book about how Mr. Levin and his wife, Jennifer, came to adopt their twin sons, which I thought was very relevant. It shows what huge hearts these people have and how much family means to them. Oogy became a part of all that the minute he went home with them. The Levin house was brimming with love, kindness and patience which was exactly what Oogy needed. Larry Levin's love for Oogy is very apparent, and he definitely thinks of Oogy as far more than just a dog. This animal has become a constant friend and companion. I don't think Oogy could have asked for a better family to spend his life with. In the last chapter, Mr. Levin mentioned trying to get Oogy certified to be a therapy dog, and I think he'd be great at it. I wish they had a website to keep readers updated, but I couldn't find any info as to whether Oogy successfully completed this training. It does appear though, that Mr. Levin and Oogy have made several appearances at fund-raising benefits and are helping to raise awareness of dog fighting which is an equally admirable mission.
Oogy is a gentle story about what it truly means to be a family, and other than some moderately disturbing details of Oogy's condition when he was rescued and what dog fighting is like, there is no objectionable content. It's a nice, easy read that would be appropriate for middle grades and up as long as they wouldn't be overly bothered by the things I mentioned. Oogy, both the book and the dog, are a real inspiration. As Mr. Levin says, if Oogy could survive all he went through with his sweet, gentle, loving disposition intact, so can others. This wonderful dog can be a great object lesson to educate and uplift all of us, but particularly those who may be suffering through a physical disfigurement or other obstacle of their own or who are trying to come to terms with abuse. This book warmed me through and through, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys animal stories....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Lucky is a cute picture book about a spunky little dog who looses a leg in an accident, but doesn't allow his disability to hoReviewed for THC Reviews Lucky is a cute picture book about a spunky little dog who looses a leg in an accident, but doesn't allow his disability to hold him back. The story is a rather simple one and not quite as involved as I was expecting based on the synopsis. It is probably best suited for read-aloud with very young readers, and the easier vocabulary would be perfect for beginning readers as well. In spite of its simplicity, I cannot deny that Lucky conveys a positive message about not giving up when life throws you a curveball, as well as love and acceptance of anyone with a disability, and it does so in an upbeat way. The illustrations are a whimsical compliment to the story. There is a lot going on in the pictures that invites further exploration and interaction. My only complaint is that I wish Lucky's owner had adopted him from a shelter rather than purchasing him from a pet store. I think this would have passed along another subtle message to children about the importance of providing loving homes for all of our homeless animal friends. Overall though, Lucky was a gentle and enjoyable book that should appeal to any little one who loves animal stories.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author via the publicist, Bostick Communications, in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" One Dog at a Time is part war story, part dog story that is by turns both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The authReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" One Dog at a Time is part war story, part dog story that is by turns both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The author was a Royal Marine deployed to a remote village in Afghanistan. He is obviously a dog lover, but he didn't set out to become a caretaker for the strays of Afghanistan. They simply found and befriended him along the way. In many ways, I think that caring for the dogs became something of an escape for Pen (and many other soldiers and marines on the front) from the rigors of fighting. It helps to give them a sense of normalcy and a little companionship in the midst of a war zone.
The resilience of these animals and their intuitive sixth sense about which humans can be trusted is utterly amazing. Nowzad, the first dog Pen rescued had been used as a fighting dog by the first group of Afghan National Police (ANP) who shared their compound. It absolutely broke my heart to learn how the dogs ears and tails are lopped off without anesthetic all for the sake of them fighting for sport. I was astounded by how quickly Nowzad began to warm up to Pen after the abuse he'd suffered and probably never having had much positive contact with humans. When the shelling started, he somehow managed to jump a high fence, looking for Pen. In spite of becoming best buds with Pen, Nowzad could understandably still be somewhat unpredictable around other people. I could really sense Pen's frustration over not having enough time to work with Nowzad to unlearn his fighting training. More than once I thought Nowzad might come to a heartbreaking end, because of his history of fighting and seemingly not being able to trust anyone but Pen. Somehow the author was able to look past all this and see the potential in him and give him a chance at a better life.
The other dogs, twenty-one in all, somehow found Pen. More than once, he was sure his comrades wouldn't believe that he hadn't purposely brought them into the compound. The dogs just seemed to instinctively know that there was someone inside those walls who would help them. The second dog, RPG, followed Pen to his duty post in the wee hours of the morning, running around him in circles, just wanting someone to play with him. Then there was Jena, the pregnant mom who was being used as a breeder by the ANP. Later even more dogs joined the group including Tali, another momma dog with six puppies and AK, a female dog who'd been bitten by a snake. Then there were Dushka and Patches, two dogs who stayed outside the compound but who often accompanied the marines during their patrols. The way Dushka, another fighting dog, followed their cues, moving when they moved and crouching when they crouched was just too cute. It's amazing how these dogs who were essentially wild street dogs with little experience around humans can pick up on these things so easily. It shows what intelligent creatures they really are and that they have emotions too.
Some of the military operations passages moved a little slowly for me, not that the author goes into great detail with these parts but simply because military stuff isn't a primary reading interest for me. However, I was intrigued by the times where they experienced some interactions with the Afghan people. The little children who begged for pens and candy from the marines was equally as heartbreaking as the dog stories. The second group of ANP who came to share their compound were much better than the first. Pen and some of his men were actually able to make friends with them, and even though they still found Pen and “his dogs” to be funny, they helped out with them in more ways than one. It was also interesting to see how the marines spent Christmas day.
I was quite saddened to learn that not all the dogs found happy endings, but as the title suggests, perhaps it's enough to save just one dog at a time. I really admire the author's compassionate heart for the animals and his tenacity in trying to give them a better life. Pen has now started a charity, Nowzad Dogs, to help rescue more strays from Afghanistan and Iraq, and is also helping his fellow service members to bring home the dogs that they have befriended too. Overall, I really enjoyed One Dog at a Time and look forward to reading the sequel, No Place Like Home which details the author's efforts to assist more dogs in finding forever homes....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Christmas with Tucker is billed on the cover as a prequel to A Dog Named Christmas. While most of the events of thReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Christmas with Tucker is billed on the cover as a prequel to A Dog Named Christmas. While most of the events of the book take place long before A Dog Named Christmas, I still consider it to be the second in this untitled series. It begins with George McCray, the father and narrator of A Dog Named Christmas, reminiscing about Christmas 1962 which was a year that changed his life as a young boy. George is again the first-person narrator of this feel-good story about the importance of family, a boy's coming of age, and a boy's love for his dog. It is an inspiring tale about never giving up because you simply don't know what life might have in store for you.
At thirteen, young George finds himself at a crossroads in life. He's at that awkward stage between boyhood and manhood which is confusing enough as it is, but George has the added stress of dealing with the death of his father less than six months earlier. When his dad was killed in a farming accident, all the rules that George thought governed his life were broken, and now he feels helplessly adrift. George is also conflicted about leaving his grandparent's dairy farm, the only home he's ever known and one that he loves, to move with his mom to Minnesota to be near her family after the holidays. In addition to all this, George becomes quite attached to their neighbor's dog whom his grandfather brings home to care for temporarily when their neighbor gets into some trouble. George does a lot of growing up in the couple of months over that Christmas holiday. When a huge snowstorm hit, George really stepped up to the plate, working shifts to help his grandfather run the road maintainer (basically a snow plow), as well as taking on extra chores around the farm. When the power goes out he has to chop holes in the ice on the pond, so the cows can drink and milk them by hand too. It was definitely a man's job, but George really showed himself to be responsible. He was a very strong and smart kid. He so desperately wanted Tucker to be his dog and didn't think his neighbor Frank Thorne was a good dog owner, so he was quite tempted to take Frank up on an offer that would not have been good for Frank. Although George started out making the wrong choice in this situation, he took the time to think things over and in the end, made the right one. That wasn't the only time he had to make a mature decision, but each time, he did it with some careful thought which I found very admirable even though it was still from a kid's perspective.
Christmas with Tucker has a varied supporting cast, the most important of whom are George's grandparents, Bo and Cora. I remember George being a good father in A Dog Named Christmas, and he obviously learned from the best. His grandparents are very wise and loving, allowing George to learn from his own mistakes and guiding him with a gentle hand. At first glance, Frank Thorne doesn't seem like a very nice person, and at the beginning, he probably wasn't. As George learns and grows he begins to see a different side of Frank that he didn't initially. I really love the close-knit feel of this rural community and how they all pull together to help each other out when the big winter storm hits. They are completely reliant on the maintainer, because it's the only vehicle that can get through the snowed in roads. It was wonderful how they all happily shared whatever extras they might have with others until the roads could be cleared, and then when the ice storm hits not long before Christmas even the maintainer can't get through. In the end, it was George's persistence and his grandfather's ingenuity combined with the community's spirit that helped to “save” Christmas.
In Christmas with Tucker, Greg Kincaid has created yet another heartwarming Christmas story that was a good follow-up to A Dog Named Christmas as well as a great way to wrap up my holiday season's reading. The only reason I didn't give it the full five stars is that the first half or so of the book was a little slow for me. After the storms hit, things began to pick up a little and there were some exciting things happening to hold my attention better. Greg Kincaid is an author who is really in tune with animal natures. The prologue of the story written from Tucker's perspective was ingenious. Mr. Kincaid is also great with creating satisfying stories that are uplifting and poignant. I can see these two volumes becoming comfort reads at Christmastime or anytime. There is absolutely no objectionable content either, so Christmas with Tucker would be a great book to share with the family as a Christmas reading tradition....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" A Lion Called Christian is a wonderful, almost serendipitous true story of how two friends from Australia purchaseReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" A Lion Called Christian is a wonderful, almost serendipitous true story of how two friends from Australia purchased a lion cub from Harrod's Department Store in London in 1969, and about a year later were able to return him to the wild in Africa. Christian seemed like the most gentle, even-tempered lion one could ever hope to encounter. He also had a very big personality. From the moment the authors, Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall met Christian at Harrod's they were completely taken with him. I think it was that immediate bond, perhaps coupled with a little bit of daring on their part and a little enjoyment of the novelty of owning an exotic pet that fueled their purchase of Christian. Even though they had fun with the latter, Ace and John were pretty realistic right from the start, knowing that they couldn't keep Christian forever, because he would eventually outgrow their living space. Almost from the moment they bought him, the friends began looking for suitable arrangements for Christian when the time came. They hated the idea of him being in a zoo or circus and were always looking for someplace where he could be in a more natural habitat. The area in which they worked seemed to be a draw for the wealthy and celebrities, and as luck would have it, the pair had the good fortune to meet Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, the stars of the motion picture, Born Free. Since making the movie, Bill and Virginia had been very involved in conservation efforts and making wildlife documentaries, and were able to get Ace and John in touch with George Adamson, the man who Bill had played in the movie. This set in motion a series of events which made it possible for Ace and John to return Christian to Africa to be rehabilitated into the wild.
Ace and John wrote A Lion Called Christian after taking Christian to Africa. It was first published in 1971, but apparently the book was recently updated and re-released when the video clip of their reunion with Christian a year later went viral on YouTube. The idea that a lion could not only remember them, but greet them with the same affection and exuberance that he had shown when they lived together, after spending a year in the wild, was amazing. Although Christian had a couple of frightful moments that were a stark reminder of the wild creature that he was, thankfully, no one was seriously injured, and all in all, he sounded like a wonderful animal that it would have been a pleasure to know. I'm not sure what the practices were at that time, but nowadays, scientists would probably have tagged and/or put a tracker on him to trace his movements. At that time, George Adamson physically went out looking for the lions he was rehabilitating, and eventually lost track of Christian when the lion moved too far away. It would have been nice to know precisely what became of him. Unfortunately, we can only assume, but Christian's life was a pretty remarkable one for the three years that humans knew and interacted with him. There was also a documentary made in conjunction with Christian's exodus from England and reintroduction to his natural habitat which I hope to see at some point.
It seems that Christian was an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact, and through this book, I was no exception. I've always loved animal stories and this one was a quick and easy read. I think older children and up could appreciate its message of friendship, loyalty, love and trust, as well as the importance of ecology and keeping wild animals wild. I'm so glad to see that George Adamson's work in wildlife conservation has continued, and Ace and John are involved in those efforts. Reading this book has also stirred my interest in checking out Born Free. I highly recommend A Lion Called Christian to all animal lovers, especially those who are interested in big cats and wildlife in general. It's definitely one that will be going on my keeper shelf....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Sometimes it's nice to just kick back with an easy, uncomplicated story that doesn't have any major emotional turmoil, seriousReviewed for THC Reviews Sometimes it's nice to just kick back with an easy, uncomplicated story that doesn't have any major emotional turmoil, serious conflicts or evil villains to vanquish. In fact, the main purpose of A Dog Named Christmas seems to be that of providing the reader with a feel-good story that is sure to put one in the holiday spirit. A Dog Named Christmas is a simple, straightforward tale of looking for joy in the little things in life and about being of service to others (even if it's a dog) not just at Christmastime, but all year long. It is also a heartwarming story of the bond between a father and son and how they both grow and change through their shared experience of fostering a dog over the Christmas holiday.
Although there are several secondary characters who appear in the story, this book is really about the McCray family, the dad, George, the mother, Mary Ann, and Todd, their developmentally challenged adult son who still lives with them. I really like that the McCray family is a loving and close-knit one who get along well and don't have any major family conflicts. Mary Ann is a feisty but fair woman who is the rock that keeps both George and Todd grounded. Todd is a sweet and endearing young man who reminds me a lot of Forrest Gump. He may be slow on the uptake about some things, but he also has a very perceptive nature and is high-functioning, making him able to do a lot of things that “normal” people can do. He also has an amazing talent with handling and caring for animals. It is Todd's plea to his parents that initially sets things in motion for them to offer a temporary foster home to Christmas, the dog, and it is also Todd's determination to see every dog have a place to spend the holidays which empties out the shelter in time for Christmas.
Although he doesn't really seek to be the “star” of the story, in my opinion, the main character (besides Christmas of course) is really George McCray. A Dog Named Christmas is told in first-person from his perspective, and even though he plays a pivotal role in the adoption of all the dogs and is proud of the accomplishment, he tries to keep the spotlight on Todd. What ends up happening though, is that George has a transformative experience himself. After two “bad” (read heartbreaking) dog experiences as a young man, both of which occurred during his time in the Vietnam war, George is reluctant to ever have a dog in his life again. He has always used the excuse that he's a farmer who has plenty of animals to care for and doesn't need another. Todd can be very persuasive though, and eventually talks George into the temporary adoption. The two of them go to the shelter together to pick out Christmas, and bring him home to discover that he's the best dog ever. Throughout this whole process, George is seeking to teach his son a valuable life lesson about the importance of keeping his word. When all is said and done, Todd has surprised his father with a maturity that George didn't think he possessed, and George is the one who has learned a lesson about dealing with the past and moving forward to the future.
I really enjoyed the way that the author painted Christmas as an independent dog who picked the McCray family every bit as much as they picked him. I strongly believe that animals can be quite perceptive and have always thought that our pets “chose” us too. When adopting them, I always looked for that special connection, and was blessed to find it, so I can really relate to the relationship between Christmas and the McCray's. There were several fun, light-hearted moments in the book that had me smiling, and overall, I found A Dog Named Christmas to be a pleasant, uplifting and heartwarming read, that has found a spot on my keeper shelf to be enjoyed again during future holidays seasons. A Dog Named Christmas is a very gentle story with no objectionable content which would make it a great book to share with the entire family as a holiday reading tradition. I highly recommend this book to all animal lovers or anyone looking for a short, relaxing read during this busy time of year, and it would make a wonderful holiday gift too. A Dog Named Christmas was also made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that aired on television a few weeks ago. I recorded the program and am really looking forward to watching it....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews In Santa Paws, Nicholas Edwards (which is actually a pseudonym for Ellen Emerson White) has created an absolutely charming talReviewed for THC Reviews In Santa Paws, Nicholas Edwards (which is actually a pseudonym for Ellen Emerson White) has created an absolutely charming tale of a small homeless puppy who goes around town, saving lives, helping people in need, and spreading Christmas cheer during the holiday season. I loved how the puppy is still able to give love and help the townspeople to feel better, even though he is so very lonely himself after getting lost from his canine family. I found this to be a great object lesson for humans in that if we can rise above our own hurts and find the love in our hearts to help others, it might just make us feel better too, not to mention it was a great example of the real meaning of Christmas.
I would say that at least half of the book is written from the dog's point of view, which I thought was very unique and clever. In my opinion, Ms. White did an excellent job of describing how a dog might think and feel. Rather than simply anthropomorphizing the dog as many author would, she managed to created some realistic actions and thought processes, with him relying on instincts a lot. Sometimes he would have a one track mind about something and others he would entirely forget what his original objective was when something fun and distracting came along. Overall, I was just really impressed with how the author managed to get into the mind of a dog, and make me, on some level, feel what a dog might feel. As I read Santa Paws, I was reminded a great deal of the old Lassie movies and TV shows of which I was a huge fan when I was a kid. Of course, in my experience, dogs who are that smart are few and far between, but they do certainly exist.
Santa Paws was just a very sweet and enjoyable tale that is sure to warm the heart during the holiday season or any time of the year. I highly recommend it for all animal lovers, and for family reading time. Even though the book is geared towards kids, my adult mind was engaged as well. It is the first book in the Santa Paws series. Nicholas Edwards created the series and authored the first six books, but there are others that were written later by Kris Edwards, who is no relation. I'm not sure of the entire story behind the change in authors, but it is my understanding that Ellen Emerson White did not approve of or officially sanction these later Santa Paws books. In any case, I loved this one so much, I am greatly looking forward to reading the other book in the series, at least those authored by Ms. White as Nicholas Edwards....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Amazing Gracie is an incredibly heartwarming story that made me laugh at Gracie's puppy antics, cheer at her and her humans' sReviewed for THC Reviews Amazing Gracie is an incredibly heartwarming story that made me laugh at Gracie's puppy antics, cheer at her and her humans' success in business, and cry buckets as Gracie's life on this mortal plane drew to a close. I can see why Gracie was such an inspiration to the authors of this story. She overcame the disabilities with which she was born and which nearly had her euthanized as a pup, to live a long and happy life. I truly commend Dan Dye for being up to the challenge, and for having the care and compassion to accept a dog like Gracie into his heart and his life. It is truly amazing how one person or creature can change the course of our lives, and Dan and Gracie did just that for each other. It was Gracie's health problems that started Dan and his best friend, Mark down the road of creating healthy, fresh food for dogs and founding Three Dog Bakery. This in turn has led to their phenomenal success in business and the culmination of a life-long dream of getting out of the rat race and working for themselves. It is likely that without Gracie, none of that would have been possible, which is truly “amazing”.
As I read Amazing Gracie, I got the feeling that Gracie must have been one of the greatest dogs in the world, and her “sisters” Sarah and Dottie weren't so bad themselves.:-) The authors' love for all the dogs, but particularly Gracie, really shines through in the narrative. I loved the humor of the story, especially when they assign human interpretations to doggie behavior. It simply made me laugh out loud. Their writing style is light, breezy and easily accessible to readers of all ages. I would even recommend the book for kids as young as middle school. I also thoroughly enjoyed the whimsical illustrations that can be found every few pages throughout the book. I thought they gave it the warm feeling of a Hallmark card. Most of the story was full of fun and games and delightful smiles, but I will warn readers to have a box of tissues handy for the ending. Having been through almost exactly the same thing with my own dog, I felt like I completely understood Dan Dye's thoughts and feelings at that time and what Gracie was going through too. That final chapter was heartbreaking, but in a good way, as I feel that Gracie's spirit lives on in the daily lives of the two men she inspired to start Three Dog Bakery and the bakery itself, as well as the Gracie Foundation. I imagine that Gracie must have touched the lives of nearly everyone she met in much the same way that she touched mine through her story. I borrowed Amazing Gracie from the library, but will definitely be acquiring a copy of my own for my keeper shelf. In my opinion, this book is a must read for all dog and general animal lovers. My dog and I just might have to pay a visit to our local Three Dog Bakery soon....more